KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jul 19 2012

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Milton Gralla and K+BB: A bit of history

I learned this week that Milton Gralla passed away on July 11, 2012 at the age of 84.

For those of you new to K+BB Magazine, you may not know that the publication was founded by Milton and his brother Larry in 1955. K+BB, or Kitchen Business at the time, was one of several publications owned by what would eventually become Gralla Publications. Those who had the opportunity to work for the company remember it fondly for its sense of family and, from the stories told to me, such perks as an in-house shoeshine service and an snack cart that would come by in the afternoons.

If you’re interested in the beginnings of K+BB, following is a brief account of its history from our 50-year anniversary issue, which was published in September 2005:

“In 1951, after discovering that editors were in dire need of professional correspondents in major cities, part-time freelance reporter Milton Gralla founded the Nationwide Trade News Service. One of his first moves was to invite his brother, Larry, a college student and a journalist and photographer, to join him in his new enterprise. As the business flourished, the Gralla brothers took to the road, photographing and writing many of the articles that they would sell.

Along the way, they also acquired considerable insight into various businesses, including the kitchen remodeling field, which lacked its own magazine and was covered only marginally in building-related publications. The Grallas saw an opportunity and tried to interest different publishers, but with little success. One company, Industrial Publishing of Cleveland, announced its intention to publish a similar venture, but gave up before producing a single issue. Wanting to prove the merit of their concept, the brothers decided to take on the job themselves, launching Kitchen Business in September 1955. Milton was 27 years old and Larry was 25.

In some respects, the new publication was unremarkable. Its initial circulation of 15,000 was sent to compiled lists. And advertising was sold at the market rate of $375 for a 7×10 black-and-white page. Its aesthetic style was simple and the company roster was even simpler. The two brothers were the sole employees.

However, Kitchen Business’ focused editorial captured the attention of an industry long in need of such an invaluable resource. They found the information contained in each issue to be informative, helpful and free from the influence of advertisers. This emphasis on honest editorial cultivated a loyal audience, growing the title as well as others that were acquired or launched by the Grallas over the years. These included Contract, which was bought from acquaintances in 1962, and Bank Equipment News and Apartment Construction News, which were launched in 1964 and 1966, respectively. Under the Grallas, these titles also enjoyed great success.

In the 1960s, as kitchen remodelers began to broaden their business to include bathrooms, Kitchen Business adjusted its coverage accordingly. Although the tagline was also changed to reflect a wider focus, it wasn’t until October 1981, when the publication was formally re-christened Kitchen & Bath Business as “a tribute to those thousands of kitchen dealers, distributors and suppliers who have recognized and capitalized on the opportunities of better and expanded bathrooms,” wrote then publisher, Patrick J. Galvin. Galvin’s editorial welcomed readers to the “wonderful world of the jazzed-up john” and promised that the name change did not mean less kitchen news, but expanded coverage on bathroom remodeling.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 8:27 AM and is filed under Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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